Class dismissed

Since I have been teaching kids how to navigate with a map and compass for a while, I decided it might not be a bad idea to learn a little something about it. I didn’t come to this conclusion all by myself, however. After a recent column about orienteering, one of the emails I received pointed out a mistake I had made, if you can imagine. Barry Boswell went to Annapolis, and served as an officer in the United States Navy. Now he’s president of Bay Area Engineering, whatever that is. I have no idea what the president of Bay Area Engineering is supposed to do, but he evidently has enough free time to correct erring newspaper columnists. Barry cordially explained to me that my version of declination, although it happens to be the generally accepted version now, is not entirely accurate, in the sense that it is wrong. I said declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north. Actually, according to Barry, that is variation. Declination is the difference between magnetic north and where your compass needle actually points. That may sound strange, since compass needles are supposed to point to magnetic north but, as Barry pointed out, sometime they don’t. When a compass is surrounded by a large wad of metal, such as a U.S. Navy destroyer, it tends to act funny. Sometimes compasses act funny when they are held too near even a small amount of metal. This is seldom a problem for men, but women should remember it, since they sometimes wear foundation garments containing metal, which I don’t even want to think about. So, if you have metal on your person, such as a necklace or watch or battleship, what you have to do is take your “compass reading,” then correct it for “declination,” which gives you a correct “magnetic bearing,” then you correct for “variation,” which gives you a “true heading.” Barry learned this as an ensign, and was told to remember the C-D-M-V-T procedure by equating it to the phrase “Can Dead Men Vote Twice.” Evidently someone from Duvall County made that up. Anyway, Barry’s email got me to thinking that maybe there were other things I was missing about orienteering. So, when I got an email from Bass Pro Shops concerning the upcoming events at the San Antonio store, and one of those events was an orienteering class, I decided to attend and see if I could learn something. But when my wife and I got to the store we were told the class had been cancelled, on account of the guy who was supposed to teach it was lost in the woods. Not really. He was on vacation, which is probably worse. If you’re lost in the woods at least you can’t spend money. But the point is that he wasn’t at the store, so he couldn’t teach the class. We must have looked disappointed, so Richard Matherne, who works in the camping section, told us to go into the classroom and he would see what he could come up with. As it turns out, there were a few other people who had come to learn orienteering, so we all stuck our heads together and, after only about 15 minutes, found the classroom. Richard came back with a video, but the DVD player wouldn’t cooperate, so he banged on it with a flyrod. I think it was a Southbend. But that didn’t help, so Richard asked us what we wanted to know about orienteering. I said I’d been teaching it for a while, and I just wanted to see how someone else did it. Richard looked at me and raised his eyebrows. I looked at him and then at everyone else in the classroom. Everyone else in the classroom looked at me. And that’s how I ended up teaching the class I went to take. I asked Richard to get me some map compasses, and he went and brought back three Brutons. Then I asked him to get me some maps, and he went out again and came back with some National Park Service maps of a park in Arkansas. Then I asked him to get me a top sirloin’medium’and a glass of tea. I think he would have done it, too, but he decided I was kidding. So Richard wasn’t perfect, but he did go to a lot of trouble to accommodate those of us who hadn’t heard the class was cancelled. He even got the DVD player to work, finally, and we got to watch a big, bearded fellow figure out which direction north was by using a stick and some little pegs and the stick’s shadow. I don’t have a beard, but I think it would work anyway. The moral is that if you’re going to drive 90 miles to take a class, you might want to check and see if the class will actually be held. And it’s also a good idea to ask who the teacher will be’ ‘ Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who can usually find Bass Pro Shops without much help. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex. 76856 or

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